Electrocution is one of the leading causes of severe and fatal injuries among construction workers. Many electrocutions can be prevented when employers maintain safe worksites, enforce work safety programs, and train workers in safety procedures. When employers fail in their duties and workers are injured or killed, a workers’ comp lawyer can help victims obtain compensation.
After Electricians, Construction Workers Are the Most Vulnerable
The number of electrocution deaths in the construction industry dropped by 39 percent between 2003 and 2015. Despite that reduction, electrocutions remain the third leading cause of death among construction workers. After electricians, construction workers are the most vulnerable group to be killed or severely injured on the job by electricity.
While direct contact with electricity can be deadly, indirect contact more frequently causes fatalities and injuries in the construction industry. This contact often occurs when standard tools and machinery used by workers like ladders, lifts, scaffolds, trucks, and cranes touch power sources.
Preventing Electrocution on the Job
When workers are unaware that electrical hazards exist, they are even more vulnerable to electrocution. The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America suggests that toolbox talks are an effective way to inform workers about the electrical hazards they may encounter on construction sites. OSHA requires that: “The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”
Contact with overhead power lines is the reason for most electrocutions among construction laborers. Employers should implement safety procedures that require employees to:
- Identify and restrict access for construction equipment and vehicles in high-risk areas under power lines.
- Avoid storing materials near power lines.
- Always assume overhead lines are live unless they know for sure that they have been de-energized and grounded.
- Avoid moving extension ladders that are extended. Workers should seek help when transporting ladders.
- Avoid equipment that has touched live overhead power lines. The current in the ground could be strong enough to shock or kill.
Other sources like electrical cords, buried cables, and tools also cause electrocutions on construction sites. To help prevent these incidents from occurring, all tools and equipment should be regularly inspected. Frayed cords and damaged equipment should be removed from the site. Circuit breakers, fuses and other ground-fault circuit interrupters should be properly installed and maintained.